Vigil planned ahead of eviction
City says 23 shelter beds are available, but some homeless campers say they’re not going to budge from tent city
Citizens are invited to hold vigil along the edges of Victoria Park on Tuesday morning as the homeless encampment there is expected to be dismantled at 9 a.m.
Activist Rachelle Sauve sent out a notice Monday inviting people to come stand watch over Victoria Park to create “a circle of care, solidarity and witnessing” as the park closes to campers.
The idea behind the vigil is “to ensure that if police are to pursue removal and displacement of people from Victoria Park, there are witnesses,” states Sauve’s notice.
Citizens are asked to gather at Confederation Square at 7 a.m., and then proceed to the areas surrounding Victoria Park.
The vigil is expected to continue until 11 a.m., although the notice states that it’s expected some people will remain through the day and possibly Tuesday night.
Victoria Park has had a homeless encampment of more than 40 tents since the Warming Room shelter closed on July 1.
The shelter closed because the building where it was hosted, Murray Street Baptist Church, is being renovated.
On Tuesday at 9 a.m., Victoria Park will be closed to the public for 30 days for a cleanup — and if anyone’s still camping, states a notice posted at the park, they’re trespassing.
Peterborough city and county both have new bylaws that say anyone found camping in municipally-owned parks can be fined $200 to $10,000.
Yet some homeless campers told The Examiner on Monday they don’t expect anyone to vacate the Victoria Park unless they’re forced out.
Among them was Dwayne Duguay, the homeless man who’s been camping alone this summer on the grounds at the former St. Andrew’s Church on Rubidge Street.
He spends his days in Victoria Park with other homeless people, and he predicts a riot in Victoria Park on Tuesday.
“There’s no way they’re moving,” he said of the tent city campers. “They’re fighting.”
Meanwhile the city’s website states that it had 23 available shelter beds on Sunday night.
Most of those were cots the city set up in the
lower-level auditorium of the Peterborough Public Library earlier this summer, although there were a few in shelters such as Brock Mission.
But that assertion was refuted on Monday by Christian Harvey, former director of the Warming Room, in a Facebook post. The post was an open letter to city council.
“Our shelter beds are at capacity — there are not 30 empty beds on an average night, as has been reported,” Harvey wrote on the Warming Room’s Facebook page.
Whenever a homeless person or anyone concerned about homelessness has asked city council where the homeless will go, Harvey added, they are met with silence.
There’s no answer to the question, he wrote, and when people are chased out of Victoria Park they will be forced to camp in obscure woods.
“I believe our health as a community is measured by how we treat the most vulnerable in our midst,” Harvey wrote. “This is a test of that.”
A man camping in Victoria Park sits atop the park’s hill Monday. People camping there were ordered to vacate the park by Tuesday at 9 a.m.